Getting to the heart of senior boy’s reluctance to “launch”

Cheryl from overseas, asks:

Our senior in high school shows no interest in moving on, applying to college, or even getting a job. We have made it clear that no plans for further education means he is making a choice to get a job and support himself without the benefits of a college degree. No value judgment added there. In theory this should be fine but it seems to be leading nowhere and soon to booting him out and conflict that doesn’t seem healthy either. He has been tested at an extremely high IQ (155 across the board) with no learning disabilities and has always had a challenging education. Why is it so hard for boys today to "launch"?

I may not have enough information to answer your question. At the very least, I’ll have to ask you a lot of questions in order to figure out what’s going on with your son. You describe him as a senior in high school. I presume that this would be the spring of his senior year, yet he hasn’t yet applied to college. Did he not have a college counselor? Did he ignore her? Did he willfully refuse to apply to college when all his classmates were filling out their forms? If so, that’s unusual and makes me wonder whether he is depressed. Usually, seniors apply to college even when they are uncertain about what they want to do simply because all their classmates are doing it. The peer pressure for going to college is pretty strong and hard to resist.

Is your son tired, irritable, abrasive, or full of despair? Does he express feelings of futility or worthlessness? I am concerned about suicidal feeling when a boy does not seem interested in the future. Does he seem angry with you a lot of the time? Are you having trouble communicating? If so, you might need to see a family therapist to sort out some issues before he can go off into the world.

You haven’t told me whether your son has been a good student during his high school years. Sometimes very gifted students-and with an I.Q. of 155 your son is certainly in the 99th percentile, placing him among the very brightest young men on earth-are completely bored by school. He may have experienced himself as being smarter than most of his classmates and many of his teachers. Perhaps he doesn’t look forward to college because school has been a huge disappointment to him.

I have other questions? Is he in love and afraid to leave a girlfriend? You mention that you live overseas; is he anxious about going to college on another continent? Has he been an anxious boy? Has he ever spent much time away from home? Does he like to travel? If not, do you think he is afraid of being homesick?

I want to ask questions about his friendships, whether he has trusting relationships with adults outside the family, whether there are tensions at home, like an impending divorce, that might cause him to want to stay home to keep an eye on things. All I can say in conclusion is that it doesn’t sound to me as if your son is simply having trouble launching. There is something going on in his mind, and it is serious.